The Inconsistency of Shoe Sizes

In an uninteresting sort of note: As my feet grew accustomed to the running lasting longer and longer the sizes changed. When I started running I went from the size 10½ for the three types of tennis shoes I wore to size 11 in the two (NB 670 and Saucony Shadow) running shoes that were my beginning platforms.

At the end of the first year or so — one foot measured at 11¼; the other at 11½. I bought all shoes (NB, Sako, adidas, Saucony, Kangaroos, Avia, and Turntec) at size 12. It was all so simple with a somewhat uniformity of sizing across brands and models with brands.

About ten years later, the somewhat dainty left foot had increased to an even size 12. The other was at 12 3/8. There were almost no brands of shoes made in size 12½. My shoes of choice then were NB, Montrail, ASICS, and Brooks. All were bought in size 13. Adjustments for size variations were done with socks of varying thicknesses.

Time passed and a few shoes started making size 12½. I bought a few pair of adidas, Saucony, and Salomon (?) at 12½. The introduction of the 12½ created a heretofore unseen problem — sizing within a brand was different across models. I wore size 13 in Saucony Peregrine, but size 12½ in Saucony Kinvara. Why was there a difference within a brand?

Since 2010 I have taken advantage of close-out sales by rationalizing the use of shoes that aren’t quite the right size. There are several brands/models (but not all models within a brand) that I buy in size 12½, but — big but — I do not wear them for longer than three hours. They are comfortable, light, flexible, and all that stuff, but my feet fill them up during that last hour. Brooks, NB, and Saucony in size 13 are laced up for days when I expect to be out longer than three hours. The shoe with the designed-in rock plate or the homemade rock plate need is based on the rocks; friendly or pointy-side-up?

Shoe sizing is an arbitrary sort of thing, certainly not governed by an apparent uniformity of standards or quality control. I don’t worry a lot about drop and other design numbers, but size (mine, not the shoe’s) also comes into play. As the lighter materials, thinner soles, and overall flimsy-is-everything became more important, durability vanished. The days when I could [reasonably] expect many months and even more miles seem to be gone. I stay close to 200 pounds (14 stone for our New Zealand contingent) and today’s light, flexible, thin-soled shoes will not put up with the beating of the old clunky shoes of yesteryear (as recently as 2010). For our pilgrimage (el camino de Santiago) in 2004, I got a pair of Montrail Vitesse out of the box, wore them for about 600 miles across northern Spain, and then wore them for several more months as running shoes when we returned to the U.S. I think those long-lasting shoe days are gone forever.

 —– Run Gently Out There —–